Jim Hightower

Tommy Boy's Tall Tales


Look out! Here comes another Enroner crashing and burning, like some corporate comet hitting an atmosphere of ethics. This ex-Enron executive is Thomas White, who presently is U.S. Secretary of the Army. When appointing him last year to oversee the Army’s $91 billion annual budget, George W. bragged that White had great managerial experience, having been honcho of one of Enron’s energy divisions. Since then, of course, we’ve learned that White’s division was a Ponzi scheme that never actually made any money and was involved in the off-book accounting flim-flams that brought Enron down. Now it turns out that Tom-my Boy, as George W. would call him, also lied to Congress about his financial stake in Enron and about the contacts he made with his former corporate colleagues as the company was imploding. When he was appointed, White promised to avoid conflicts of interest by selling his Enron stocks. But he didn’t… until Enron began to tank. Then, he quietly pocketed $12 million by selling Enron stock while rank-and-file Enron workers and small shareholders were still in the dark about the company’s problems. Did Secretary White get inside information? Previously, he had told Congress that he had spoken with Enron executives only seven times last October, swearing that he was merely commiserating with them and not using his Pentagon position to help save the company. But now it’s been revealed that he had six other phone chats with them that month–during which he sold $3 million worth of his stock. But wait, White also belatedly admits that during the several months last year when he was unloading stock, he made dozens of other phone calls to fellow Enroners to discuss “Enron’s financial condition.” In all, he concedes he called or met with Enron executives–not seven times–but 84 times!


What is it with George W. and his gang? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ridge–they’re always trying to hide something from We the People, as though they don’t quite get the concepts of democratic sovereignty, the People’s right to know, and an accountable executive. Is he George W…. or King George the W.? First is the silliness of Bush and Dick Cheney trying to hide the list of people the administration huddled with to write its energy policy. Their policy absolutely reeks of Big Oil and other corporate energy barons, so who do they think they’re fooling by acting like it’s a state secret that they let energy executives from the likes of Enron and Exxon write their legislation? In a democracy, the names of those who write public policy clearly has to be a matter of public information, yet, like a two-year old clutching his list and shrieking “mine,” George W. has turned this into a Constitutional confrontation with Congress and the public. Similarly the White House won’t allow our Homeland Security Czar, Tom Ridge, to testify publicly about what he’s doing to us in the name of security. “None of your business,” George shouts out of a White House window. The worst is Pentagon honcho, Don Rumsfeld, who’s not only conducting an unlimited war on terrorism, but also is at war with the public’s right to know. He goes all out to prevent any independent media assessment of his conduct of the war, imposing unprecedented secrecy and haughtily asserting that he’ll tell us what he wants us to know. Instead of information, he feeds us propaganda that, again and again, we later find out to be lies.


The St. Louis Cardinal’s baseball team is one of the most storied in the game, with such great players as Dizzy Dean, Stan “The Man” Musial, Ozzie Smith, and Mark McGuire having worn the red-and-white uniform. And Cardinal fans are some of the most loyal fans anywhere, regularly filling the stadium and putting a steady flow of profits into the pockets of the team’s owners. But in 1995, new ownership took over, led by William DeWitt, an Ohio financier who is a former business partner and big-time political funder of George W. Bush. In 1989, DeWitt had brought George into a partnership that bought the Texas Rangers baseball team. Two years later, the DeWitt-Bush team got the taxpayers to build a new, $150-million stadium for them, which greatly inflated the team’s value and let both of them walk away with millions when they later sold the Rangers. DeWitt is now throwing his corporate screwball at the people of St. Louis, demanding that Missouri taxpayers pony up $390 million to build a new sports palace for him there. Ray Hartman of The Riverfront Times writes that “the loyal public is aghast,” with two-thirds of St. Louisians opposed to this rip-off. Hartman notes that DeWitt and his partners “collectively have $4 billion in assets” and “could very easily finance a new stadium privately.” But while the fans oppose this raw deal, top politicians are dutifully backing the Big Money Boys. Sadly, so is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which used to criticize such silly subsidies. But now it’s editorializing in favor of the deal–perhaps because the newspaper’s ownership group recently joined DeWitt as an owner of the Cardinals. That’s the way the game is played by corporate conservatives, who preach free-enterprise.

Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.